The Tiny House Couch

I’m just going to call it a blog writing hiatus. It isn’t that we haven’t been working on the tiny house religiously, it’s more that we are at a place where there are a lot of “almost-dones”.

The kitchen shelves, the front door, the bathroom, the plumbing, the lighting…all almost done 🙂 Today I can’t take it anymore though, I have to share a sneak peak of one of them- the couch! It’s not even finished and calling it a ‘couch’ feels like I’m doing it a disservice.

It started with a loose conversation about what the couch or bench would look like. You see, the couch is a very unique piece of furniture in this house because not only is it really the main piece of furniture, it doubles as a storage space- concealing our water tank and filtration system.
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In the time I’ve known Kalib he has moved five times. Somewhere along the way he acquired some old wood that we then proceeded to move…and move…and move again. To me it was scrapwood. Something for a project. Too nice to throw out, but not really that nice.

I told myself a less reasonable woman would have put her foot down. Would have said no to moving and stacking and moving and restacking the pile. But the truth was, I was a willing participant, trusting Kalib would find some use for it, someday.

Turns out, what I thought was scrapwood was actually aged rough sawn cherry. Kalib had found a steal of a deal through Craigslist that he couldn’t pass up. True it wasn’t flat, straight or even in lengths. But after thickness planing, joining, straight lining, cutting to length, and adding tongue, groove and base grooves- this was no longer a heap of wood needing to be stashed somewhere… Continue reading

American Clay- VOC Free

The SIP walls made the tiny house feel like a real house. They transformed what was a dance floor on a trailer to the shell of a home. We set up lawn chairs inside and just stared at the walls. It felt like a massive achievement. We could just stop now and roll it somewhere. Almost. The truth was, we were still at the very beginning of this project. With walls comes drywall and a finish- but what  kind of finish? What should the inside of the tiny house look like? This is a big decision! And considering the tiny house is going to be moved (at least once!) we had to think about how a finish would tolerate the sway and flexing of the walls. The rigidity of the SIPs allowed us to use a finish such as American Clay instead of a latex based paint. If we had used traditional stick framing, the walls would have moved too much, causing cracks in a clay finish. American Clay is a natural clay product produced in the US that creates a plaster like finish. Prep is easy, simply sand-prime the Continue reading

We Saw the Light

Sometimes a weekend comes along that actually recharges you. This blog post will seem out of order, (jumping from installing SIPs to shopping for lighting), but it was a fun weekend and got us out of the tiny house for a change, so let me tell you about it.

Saturday morning, Kade, Kalib, Beau and I set out on an adventure to find the right lights for the tiny house interior. We went to Urban Reclamations first. It has an open, airy warehouse vibe. We parked right up front and Kalib assured me Beau could come in. Greeted by a couple friendly head-pats, Beau took a quick liking to the place, proudly bringing us a piece of scrap wood to see if it was for chewing or not. We wondered around and after some searching, Kalib found a white pendant barn light- well the bones of said light. It was aged and chipped and the wiring had been cut with just a couple inches left dangling. Still, $45 felt like a pretty good deal. So we got it and were on our way. Continue reading

The Boatyard

The first few weeks of this project zoomed by, almost as if someone was holding the fast forward button on us. We worked round the clock honestly. Last people to close up shop and roll out of the boatyard many nights. Taco stand veggie burritos for lunch and dinner, coffee in the morning, energy drinks at night. Healthy, no. Filling, yes. We were on a mission.

A wonderful thing about building in an industrial neighborhood is there is no noise ordinance. We blast the stereo and run the chop saw till our little hearts are content and no one thinks twice of it. Before the chilliness of fall had set in, we had left the garage door wide open most days, welcoming the neighbors and passersby of the area.

I think the combination of an ever-friendly golden retriever and the novelty of a ‘tiny house’ where a boat should be, made most people stop by or at least look twice. Some people’s curiosity was Continue reading

Raise the Roof

The SIP walls were pretty easy to install. The panels are light enough that two people can haul them around and keep them upright. The roof involved a little more planning.

The beam that stretches across the length of the tiny house, was salvaged from our friend Blake’s family’s property in Roslyn, Washington. His family had recently built a beautiful vacation home and Blake offered up the leftover beam, unsure quite how long it was. Determined to have a beam ready for his work party that weekend, Kalib drove up to Roslyn (80 miles outside Seattle) on a work night. The beam was perfect, beautiful solid fir. Just 4 feet short, but a scarf joint would make it work.

Kalib spent the night in his van and set out before dawn. Nothing but a quiet mountain pass between him and the roof now.


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SIPs for the Tiny House

With the subfloor built and insulated, the next step was to install the SIPs (structural insulated panels). ‘SIP’ is a term that is thrown around a lot in green building, energy conservation and the tiny house movement, so it will serve us well to take some time and describe them a little more here.

A SIP is an insulated foam core, sandwiched between two structural facings- typically panels of OSB (oriented strand board). SIPs replace the typical ‘stick’ framing method of using 2″ x 4″ boards and then insulating with fiberglass. SIPs can be ordered in virtually any size, are pre-insulated (foam core) and can have channels pre-cut for all electrical needs before they are delivered to your site, in theory savings tons in labor costs. In our case, we are doing our own labor at the expense of blisters and bruises, but it is a convenience factor of needing to do less on-site labor- especially less on-site skilled labor. Kalib has skills for days and expertly modified panels as needed, but for myself, framing out a wall compared to basically leaning a panel upright where it’s supposed to go, would be painstaking.

Allow us to geek out here. The main benefits of using SIPs are actually seen in the the long-term. In most homes, heating and cooling accounts for about 50% of all energy use. So when you hear something like R-19 or R-30, they are referring to
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The First Layer

The year we were born, 1983, the average American household consisted of 3.26 individuals living in a 1,725 sq ft home. Review most recent census data and you’ll see a steady decline in family size and incline in square footage. This is where I will heed my inclination to lecture about all the waste and excess in many parts of our lives.

Be the change you want to see.

This tiny house is built on a 8’ x 22’ trailer. The custom trailer is designed so that, should the time come, undoing 14 bolts is all that stands between house and earth.

Why build on a trailer at all if you want to put it somewhere permanently?

Building codes regulate pretty much all aspects of building, including minimum sizes for homes. In the simplest way (that I understand it and can explain it), a tiny house (on wheels) bypasses these building codes by being built on wheels—similar to an RV. It isn’t considered a house. This whole process has had a steep learning curve, but trying to get a loan to build a tiny house probably definitely was the fastest way to learn just how much lenders and banks don’t consider tiny houses to be houses—at least not houses worthy of a mortgage. Continue reading

The Tiny House Countertop

Okay let’s build a tiny house. Get some plans, build a foundation, frame some walls, add a couple windows. I would wager most people building a house (tiny or otherwise) don’t start with the kitchen countertop. Horse first, then cart right?

Well it turns out you can build the countertop first. Before you even have your trailer or floor or walls for that matter.

To call it a vision sounds trite, but truly I don’t know a better way to capture Kalib’s idea from inception to realization. The pictures are going to speak for themselves but I feel compelled to describe the madness anyways.

Misfit scraps of walnut, cherry, eastern maple, sapele and white oak litter the cold concrete. A table saw, once polished and aligned, is converted to a make shift work bench that frames the future countertop. On a different table, tiny pieces of wood, stand on end, waiting to join the party. Continue reading

Working on the Tiny House

Since Labor Day weekend I have been working on a tiny house. Most nights after work and every weekend day and into the night, minus a few here and there. The tiny house is being built in a shop in South Park. I had never heard of South Park. It is a neighborhood of South Seattle, near Boeing, along the Duwamish River, sandwiched a few miles between Georgetown and White Center. For all the booming of Seattle’s economy, seeing this place you can’t help but feel guilty and a little scared. It is an impoverished part of our beautiful city that you likely will never see. Homeless sleep outside the local community mental health agency, doorways wreak of urine, junkies walk around looking for their next fix, vans and dilapidated RVs crammed to the gills with possessions park on neighborhood streets till someone asks them to move along, businesses are boarded up and or painted in gaudy mix-matched paint, front yards littered with broken down vehicles and children’s toys. The Shell station and taco truck provide a local hangout, while “Work Wanted” notes scrawled in Spanish, inquiring about dish-washer positions, are posted to telephone poles.

No, you have probably never heard of South Park or been there. But there it is. Situated on the Duwamish River, near 99 and a couple miles from White Center. And it is there, across the street from the South Park Marina (referred to as the boat yard from here on out) and one block from the new South Park Bridge that Kalib found an oasis to build his tiny house. Continue reading